In March/April 2007 Christine Lott and Patricia Conway while working at Goldman Sachs used their vacation time to volunteer in Tanzania. Their job in Tanzania was to help local Masai women design and create jewelry. While there, they were staying with a family in a manyatta (a cow dung hut) without electricity, indoor plumbing and no water near by. Chris and Pat were humbled by these people; their strength and determination.
Chris worked in the Boston office at Goldman Sachs and Pat in the New York office. Pat and Chris although working in different offices had a great respect for each other; their knowledge, commitment and work ethic. When Chris told Pat of her plans to volunteer in Tanzania, Pat immediately said “I am coming with you”. Within two hours Pat booked her flights and arranged her volunteerism. What began as two colleagues traveling to Tanzania together has resulted in a friendship that will last a life time.
Chris and Pat work very closely with each other still long after ending their careers at Goldman Sachs.
On Sunday, April 8, 2007 while in the village of Ilkigdinga, Chris felt the need to attend a Catholic Mass; it was Palm Sunday. Living in the conditions that were adherent to them over the past ten days, she felt the need to give thanks. She was never so appreciative to the opportunities she was afforded in life. They walked for what seemed like miles to an old run down school room; it was dark, dank, mildewed and had a strong odor. They turned to each other with the same puzzlement. Both knew in their hearts that this would be an experience of a lifetime. Within thirty minutes hundreds of women, men and children began to arrive. All dressed in their finest clothes, mothers with their babies on their backs, bibles in their hands; all walked miles to be there.
The Mass began with song. Without electricity, the hand made percussion instruments provided the rhythm. The dancing began and the voices filled the room with song. It was the most beautiful faithfilled service they have ever been to. These people who live in poverty beyond our wildest dreams have faith and hope like we never witnessed.
After that special Mass, parishioners took them to their plot of land and told them of their plans to build an official church. Without hesitation Chris said ” I promise, I will help you build your church”.
The journey began…
On Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009 just about two years after the promise was made, St. Jude celebrated its opening Mass. Six weeks prior Chris took on the roll of Director full time with plans to continue her work in Tanzania.
Chris has never looked back, although founding and running an international organization is challenging, she is committed to continuing yet another promise…to provide education to the disadvantaged in Tanzania.
It has not been easy, there have been set backs. With every set back Chris is more determined to succeed.
In 2011 we founded the School of St. Nicholas in the village of Moivaro Tanzania. We began with twelve four year old children immersing them in an all English Classroom.
We provided a free to 50% discounted, quality education, uniforms, shoes, back packs, books, pencils, games and creative learning tools to over 30 children. We provided daily breakfast to all our students and we hired trained,educated teachers and staff.
We began the School of St. Nicholas to educate disadvantaged children who could not afford school fees. We accepted bright children born into chronic poverty. Most of our children live with their single mothers or grandmother in a one room rented hut with no internal plumbing, electricity or toilets. It is through education that we will end the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families in the years to come.
Without an official school building, our students began their education in the living room of a rented house. Our students arrived early every day. They came with eager anticipation to receive an education. School of St. Nicholas was an academically challenging environment, we were so happy to see our students thriving. What a blessing to see the daily, weekly and monthly growth of our students. One child at a time, lives were changed.
New Government, new rules…
2015 – Our building project stalls. Our 1.5 acres of land is not big enough. Required land is 3 acres.
June 2015 – we purchase (thanks to Rod a British man who donated the entire parcel) 3 acres in the village of Mlangarini
In January 2016 we began building again on the required three acres of land. With over 100 children on our waiting list we are growing leaps and bounds. Construction on our administrative office and first three classrooms is completed and we have moved into our new small campus. It is our goal to build new classrooms and additional bathrooms every year for the next twelve years to insure our students complete secondary school.
While working on the official school registration at our new campus there was a change in Government leadership. We were no longer allowed to use the name St. Nicholas, as we are not a religious school. St. Nicholas is known as Fr. Christmas and we decided to keep the spirit of our school. We are registered with the Ministry of Education in Tanzania as Father Christmas Academy.
Founded in 2013 by Christine Lott, who had a dream. She wanted to change the world. Today, she lives that dream; changing lives one classroom at a time.